At least 17,000 jobs are to be furloughed in Northern Ireland under the government’s coronavirus job retention scheme.
The scheme will see the government pay 80% of salary for staff who are kept on by their employer, covering wages of up to £2,500 a month.
Economy Minister Diane Dodds said companies had told Invest NI of the intention to furlough.
There is no obligation to notify Invest NI, so the total could be higher.
Mrs Dodds said she was seeking greater clarity from the Treasury on which businesses are eligible for the scheme.
The current government advice is that it is open to all employers and designed for those whose operations have been severely affected.
However, there is no clear definition of "severely affected".
This means some businesses are concerned that they could furlough staff and later find that they are not eligible.
Mrs Dodds also said £100m has been paid out in £10,000 grants to small businesses this week.
Speaking at the daily briefing from the Northern Ireland Executive, she said that details of a £25,000 grant scheme for business in retail, hospitality in tourism would be published next week.
About 4,000 businesses should benefit from this.